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The Forum > Article Comments > Desert knowledge - key to surviving the 21st century > Comments

Desert knowledge - key to surviving the 21st century : Comments

By Julian Cribb and Mark Stafford-Smith, published 23/12/2009

Everything that lives in the Australian desert is expert at survival: it may offer clues to our own survival in the future.

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I concur that the desert is a wondrous place in relation to adapted species survival and regeneration.

Visitors, sensibly, almost invariably observe them in the better times off-summer and, perhaps, in aggregrate come away with biased views of benign sunsets and minimal discomfort; of post-rain floral displays of sublime beauty.

The harsh terror of hopes of sufficiency for survival, of bare existence in shadeless desiccation of summer extremes during the hotter months: an aspect too little appreciated.

For how many humans is the learning process intended? Perhaps the most important wisdom might come from the marsupial mole in such environments - regarding numbers within the species , and parsimonious lifestyle.

As a preparatory induction course we might be persuaded to take in the certainty that we live in interesting and changing times. Perhaps we should go where the Pelican Builds Its Nest; twice; To Lake Eyre, in the breeding season after its filling; in the drying season when hordes of the birds are dying.

There is indeed much to learn, much that we can do, in adapting our European lifestyles to this continent ; perhaps the most important is learning caution in the process before further overloading this special place.
Posted by colinsett, Wednesday, 23 December 2009 10:39:24 AM
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The overriding lesson is that we humans donít belong in the desert!

Rhodanthe floribunda, Moloch horridus, Sminthopsis crassicaudata and Acacia peuce can live in the desert precisely because they have special adaptations.

Lots of plants and animals (eg; many insects) are only alive for short periods when conditions are good, including Rhodanthe floribunda (a species of paper daisy or everlasting). They exist only as seeds or eggs for the majority of the time.

All others do it tough for long periods and experience good times for short and widely separated periods.

Learning from desert creatures how to live in a more environmentally friendly manner on this arid continent with erratic rainfall is a double-edge sword. If it helps us reduce our overall environmental impact and take us towards a sustainable future, across the whole continent, well great! But if it helps our atrocious politicians to squeeze more people in and open up the deserts for new settlements and agriculture areas, well bugger that!! And letís fact it; thatís what will happen!

So surely it is a vastly better idea to just live where our environment can comfortably support us and provide a big safety margin to get us through the lean timesÖ.and to strive as hard as we can to get our bloody decision-makers to stabilise our population forthwith!
Posted by Ludwig, Wednesday, 23 December 2009 1:43:52 PM
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Why don't you ask the indig; how to live in the desert, not everybody is european.
I am not gonna live in no desert for any one, neither is yabby.
Best slow down a little bit, before you come to a corner ya can't turn.
Don't leave everything to someone else, do something for ya self.
If you recon things are going to get that bad in the next 200 years, you should be looking for a vacant wombat hole now.
Over the top scripture will come to nothing
Posted by Desmond, Wednesday, 23 December 2009 4:45:32 PM
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"...for millennia, the deserts have been a fountainhead of innovation. Sciences such as mathematics and astronomy were born among desert peoples. Religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism had their genesis in the drylands. The first explosives and the earliest steel came out of the deserts of Central Asia. Cities, too, first arose in desert regions where people learned to harness water for food production."

Er, not exactly. The authors seem to have their cause and effect the wrong way round. Mesopotamia, where agriculture began and the first fixed settlements grew up may be largely desert now, but at the time it was a well-watered basin between two rivers: hence the name (meso - between; potus - river) and the more familiar term applied to it: the Fertile Crescent. In fact it may have been the diversion of rivers to meet the needs of the growing cities that caused it to become a desert. Likewise Egypt, which was a very fertile and richly flooded delta.
Posted by Jon J, Wednesday, 23 December 2009 4:48:02 PM
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Yes, desert style living may be a future prospect. Fine to inhabit when a population is small. But, what would be the competition from a vastly expanded population for survival with scarce desert resources? And, are the 'forests dwindling' or is it more accurate to write that forests are being eliminated? Footnote: Yabbies too survive the desert!
Posted by jenni, Friday, 1 January 2010 10:22:04 AM
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